The chakras are often depicted with rainbow colors. Were the colors based on clairvoyance or user experience? Who discovered them? And the qualities for each chakra – where did they come from?
In Rainbow Body, author Kurt Leland asks these same questions, leading to his multi-year search into the origin of the chakra system as we know it. He distinguishes between the “Eastern” chakra system that originated in India about 1000 years ago, and the “Western” chakra system that was introduced to the West by the Theosophical Society in 1880. According to Leland, the original Eastern approach to the chakras was a map of discrete states of consciousness, realms or planes, from bhu-loka, the earthly, physical plane, to satya-loka, the Divine, enlightened plane of existence. Practitioners would meditate on the chakras – “pierce the chakras” or dissolve the knots between chakras – to attain higher planes of consciousness.
The Western Chakra system, on the other hand, grew out of the Human Potential Movement centered at Esalen Institute in California. Composed of psychologists, philosophers and bodyworkers, this group was instrumental in formulating the standard list of chakra qualities. Leland describes the Western chakra system as a psychological map for self-development and healing of self and others. The rainbow colors in the Western chakra system were added by Ken Dychtwald, a humanistic psychologist, in his Yoga Journal (July/August, 1977) article titled, “Bodymind and the evolution to cosmic consciousness”. Since the 1970s, other pioneers have added to our understanding of the chakras, including Rosalyn Bruyere, Barbara Brennan and Anodea Judith.
Leland’s book is very helpful in delineating the origin of the chakra system and how our understanding of the chakras has developed over time.
But I still wonder how much of it is scientifically verifiable? One way to study the chakras would be a qualitative study of chakra experiences. How are chakras experienced by the average individual? In a recent workshop, Wagner Alegretti, a scientist and instructor for The International Academy for Consciousness, stated that when we open or unblock the chakras, we may get,”flashes, images, perceptions, from what is stored in the chakra, based on past experiences or thoughts”. I have found this to be true.
Years ago, I was in a workshop led by Andrew Harvey. He led us through a guided meditation where we moved White Light up from our feet, through our bodies, passing through each of the chakras. When the White Light reached my 3rd chakra, the Solar Plexus Chakra, I saw an image of my car parked in a parking lot. At the level of the Heart Chakra, I saw an image of a pink flower, many-petalled, similar to a lotus. I associated these images with my chakras, speculating that the parked car represented my personal power, which at the time was parked and not active; whereas the pink flower was a more positive view of my Heart Chakra.
Some individuals “see” the chakras. I was at a Healing Touch workshop when a nurse/student suddenly got very excited, and said, “I can see it!”. She described the Throat Chakra as a swirling blue mist.
Others can feel the chakras. Author/teacher/physician Brugh Joy describes how he felt the Solar Plexus Chakra of a patient while doing a physical exam. Many individuals have reported a feeling of warmth in their Heart Chakra when connecting with others or the Divine. As a young woman, I felt a distinctive circular sensation in the area of my Sacral Chakra during sexual orgasm.
I read somewhere that the third eye chakra is the first meditation given to Tibetan chelates, and that concentration on this chakra is strongly recommended before attempting to awaken other chakras. So one evening I focused on my third eye chakra, and just calmly breathed, releasing any thoughts, focusing on the third eye chakra again and again, willing to take as long as needed. No deadline. Suddenly, I entered another dimension. I saw an altar. But instead of a crucifix, there was a clear white light emanating from above the altar. I had a sense that it was my soul’s inner light. I could feel the sacredness of this light and space. Scientist/meditator Hiroshi Motoyama, in his book Theories of the Chakras, notes that when the third eye chakra is awakened, “one meets one’s own divine self, i.e., the True Self”. It would be interesting to see if others have had this experience also?
If you have had any interesting chakra experiences, from just one chakra or from many, consider taking the Chakra Experiences Survey. There has been very little scientific study of the chakras. We really need to know what individuals have experienced directly.